In the morning, I walked to the marketplace. All I wanted was some fresh fruit. I found much more than that.
At the best of times, markets smell like horse manure and rotten vegetables. No matter how much fresh produce is present, these sour, putrid smells remain the strongest. They were quite strong in this market today, and decided to go to my head. I was so busy trying to escape a particularly pestilent section – I was there because it also happened to be the cheapest quarter of the market – that I almost stumbled into my ruin.
The market was set on a large, wide, flat area, with stalls here and there and farmers selling goods from the backs of carts or wagons. In the middle of the market area was a raised wooden platform, rough and weather-stained. There was a wooden frame set in the middle. This was usually used as a place to display thieves and other law-breakers. I did not expect to see, lashed spread-eagle to the frame, the boy who had delivered the parchments and scrolls to the loremaster. His back was bare and raw and gashed on one side. A man wearing a read sash around his head was standing behind the boy. There was a whip in his hand. “Tell me where you took the other scrolls, whelp, and I’ll spare you,” he said. The boy coughed and slumped in his bonds. “I never took them!” he said. Whip. Scream. “I never did! It must’ve been the other man who was there!” At that, I turned and walked away as quickly as I dared. I did not want the boy to see me. I wish I could have helped him… hopefully he will set them looking for me, and they will spare him while they do so.
Somebody wants those scrolls back, and badly enough to torture a boy who was in their way. There must have been something I missed… I couldn’t even find anything out-of-place when I skipped to the last entries. There was no indication that the conflict was over, but there was no mention of more conflict, either.
Clouds are gathering over the city. The air is heavy, thick, still. Yet the wall guards still seem unperturbed.
I left the guardhouse and found an empty corner at one of the refugee-sheltering inns. If the captain or other guards find out that a whole lot of scrolls are wanted, they’ll think of me. I can’t give the parchments up, at least not yet.